Author Topic: Meet the New Swindon Company!  (Read 9479 times)

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Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Meet the New Swindon Company!
« on: November 07, 2008, 06:43:52 PM »
I am planning to attend from the New Swindon Company website


Quote
Having had quite a few responses, we have decided to hold the first of these 'local forums' on Wednesday 10 December, between 5.15pm and 6.15pm at The New Swindon Company office.

The idea is to have an informal chat about what's happened this year in Swindon, and what is being planned for 2009. We'll have representatives from The New Swindon Company there who can answer your questions and help deal with any concerns you may have.

If you are interested in coming along please email Carol at cheneghan@newswindon.co.uk before Friday 21 November 2008. To make the Forum more productive, we'd appreciate your thoughts on any specific issues you would like to discuss at that meeting. Please email these to Carol by 3rd December 2008.



Offline Justin Tomlinson

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2008, 10:28:15 AM »
It would be good if some of you were able to go along and put across your thoughts  O0

I know with my part of the Council (Leisure, Arts & Culture) we try to meet with the 'users' on a regular basis who tell us as it is and we have changed a lot of what we do in response.

Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2008, 09:06:24 PM »
Anyone going?

I'm planning to go but not had an invite through yet despite replying!

Offline James

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2008, 02:13:16 PM »
Sadly, I'm committed to other things.

Though I'd like someone to ask them what their understanding of permeability/connectivity is, and why it is so beneficial at the bottom of Prospect Hill, that it overrides the concerns of residents about crime (burglary) and antisocial behaviour (drunks in street), and has been included?

Or were they told to do it by the council. If the latter, couldn't they be told to undo it?

James

BTW, my reading of the concept is that this residential area is already quite permeable with a high degree of connectivity, so any change will likely only deliver benefits to those who don't live in this residential area, while all of the dis-benefit will accrue directly to the residents.

Offline Tobes

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2008, 04:28:04 PM »
I'd love to go - but alas, have previous committments...
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline komadori

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2008, 10:06:51 PM »
Anyone going?

I'm planning to go but not had an invite through yet despite replying!

Same here. If they don't send anything tomorrow, then I'll just turn up. Fortunately for me it's not much of a detour as I walk home from work.
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Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2008, 10:13:44 PM »
I sent them an e-mail today and they got back to me too say yes still on!

5.15 start


See you there!

Offline Tobes

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2008, 09:06:45 AM »
I'd be really interested and grateful if either of you fine citizens could raise the predictable probl;ems which will arrise in Eascott as a result of the development on the new college site (ignoring the steel phallus, the issue of site 'permeability': the opening up of a new through route which will se those leaving the cafes and bars walking through narrow residential streets). A pint to either of you if you can ask about this!

 :santa_afro:
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline James

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2008, 08:42:34 PM »
Seems weird to "open up" a part of town which has 11 access routes for pedestrians: 6 roads and a path into it from Eastcott and another 3 roads and at least 2 footpaths from Victoria Road.

Seems pretty permeable to me.

But then I don't live there any more, maybe its changed a lot since I left in 2000...

James

Offline komadori

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2008, 06:55:50 PM »
I'd be really interested and grateful if either of you fine citizens could raise the predictable probl;ems which will arrise in Eascott as a result of the development on the new college site (ignoring the steel phallus, the issue of site 'permeability': the opening up of a new through route which will se those leaving the cafes and bars walking through narrow residential streets).

The point was raised. The answer (paraphrasing wildly because I haven't much time at the moment) was that current planning practice is that opening up the old street structure is a good thing to do. (Note that the answer was not as dismissive as that, but that was the gist of it.)

It was also pointed out (not by me) that someone in the area had raised the concern repeatedly and received no reply. Their answer was that it hadn't been raised with them (the New Swindon Company) and that you should contact Chris Hitchings (Director of Development) directly.

I have a page of scawled notes and I'll try to write something more coherent once I get back from the GW pub quiz. There was some interesting stuff about planning tactics and why the old college building is still standing.
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Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2008, 10:42:47 PM »
I was at the meeting as well!  I'll let Komodori write the detailed notes as saw him scribling away so will just comment on the atmosphere and my general impressions!

For info there was about 15 members of the public there and the added bonus that the lovely Kirsty from Swindonweb was there filming so look out on swindon web tommorrow (unfortuantely did not have a chance to chat too her!)  In addition 'Dan' from Eastcote community council was in the audience together with representatives  from Broad Street community area.

In many ways confirmed what I thought that New Swindon Company are in the middle between the council planners and developers.  Chatting to Peter James (big chief) afterwards sensed they did not have a great deal of influence with either!  For instance he shared my frustrations that some of the public areas near his office and Wharf Green are quite overgrown and sensed he had been lobbying the council to no avail!  Related to this I was disappointed that no one from the developers was there or any one from the council or our councillors.   

A lot of people expressed frustration about lack of progress and their website.  They are meant to be updating their website explaining the drawn up nature of why it takes so long and going to be proactive in attending various community meetings.  They are also planning to repeat the forum every six months.

I am still not any more confident when things will actually start with regards to College.  They mentioned that the developers are making some minor modifications to planning application this month with a view to start knocking it down in the early new year but it was all ifs and maybes!  Interestingly they said the developers are paying approx £6k a month in security fees!


They confirmed what i thought namely because of the credit crunch/recession residential property development has died down but the hotel market is particularly strong.  Peter James  said he has experienced three recessions and need to look at long term vision.


I was also expecting to see some glossy maps and plans and even a model similar to what they show on their website.  I think if they had this it would have been a lot easier for them to describe what's happening and get peoples buy in as several people in the audience seemed confused on names and places.  Rumour has it they are producing a newsletter in next couple of weeks.



Will add more once Komodori adds his notes and compare it with my memory

PS Toby will send you a PM as have chris Hitchings business card.

« Last Edit: December 11, 2008, 12:01:10 AM by concerned_of_Old_Town »

Offline komadori

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2008, 12:42:10 AM »
My observations:

The company
The New Swindon Company is a 'private' company. It was created as a partnership of Swindon Borough Council, English Partnerships (a quango owning redundant public sector land) and the South West Regional Development Company, but the majority of its board are representatives from local industry. (In my view, that makes it a quango not a private company. If the money comes from government - whether directly or indirectly - the independence of the board is irrelevant.)

Areas currently with hoardings around them, particularly in the Union Square Development

The New Swindon Company is in discussion with Swindon Borough Council over some areas, where they feel they can guarantee them 3 years before development takes place. Proposal is to use these areas as a mini adventure park for children.

Hoilday Inn has submitted planning application to use its ground floor as conference facilities. (This was presented as a good sign, but looks to me more like an indication that the retail market has collapsed and its the only use they can find for the area.)

In the property market, the housing market has collapsed, and retail and office space markets have also suffered, but the hotel market is still booming. (Presumably this will also collapse later, as the recession bites, but there was no hint that this has occurred to the New Swindon Company or the developers.)

The health centre is to be relocated to the site of the Police Station, as is the multi-storey car-park next to the bus station.

College site
The delays here have been down to potential occupiers wanting heavy discounts (e.g. rent-free whilst they fit-out their shops). The Engineers building (the red-brick one on Victoria Road) is to be occupied by a supermarket on the ground floor. This is not Waitrose (there were discussions with them, but it did not meet their criteria). The upper floors will be 'loft apartments'

The planning application for this site has been revised. Owing to the collapse in the market for flats apartments, the tower is to be reduced. (I wasn't sure from what was said whether the height of the tower is to be reduced, or whether the tower has been completely removed from the planning application.)

Issues around opening up the residential streets behind the college are being looked at, but this is currently viewed as a good thing to do in town planning. (that is, opening up existing streets is viewed as better then redeveloping the street plan).

The tactics of planning applications were described. Despite the effect of business rates now being charged on vacant buildings (as discussed elsewhere on this forum, and used by the blue nest for political ammunition) and the £6k per month in security fees, the developers do not wish to demolish the old college building until they have planning permission because, if they demolished it earlier, there might be objections to their proposals because the view (of Swindon over the cleared site) would be spoilt. By leaving the building up, the view is permanently obscured so that cannot be a grounds for objection.

Flemming Way
The buildings in the block occupied by Debenhams are owned by Resolution Asset Management, who have grand plans for the area, but these are on hold owing to the current financial crisis.

Regents Place
For Regents Place development to go ahead will require about 50% of the units to be pre-let, owing to the scale of the investment. Union Square is an easier development as it is phased, so lower pre-let percentages are necessary.

Regents Place will include 'boutique' shops, not just the large retailers (though I don't think this means a space for some of the current small retailers in Havelock Street and Morley Street, as it will be out of their price range).

Parking
The amount of parking will remain unchanged (roughly), but some parking will be relocated.

Engagement
The New Swindon Company are willing to attend local community meetings, and they highlighted that they have attended meetings in Boradgreen.
There is to be a mini-exhibition in the Brunel Centre in February of proposed groundworks.
The New Swindon Company will be producing a newsletter which they will be emailing out.
They accepted, with caveats, the suggestion of putting a display of what is planned in the vacant shops that they own at the top of Regent Street.

They accepted that they had not engaged much with developers working on sites not in their control or outside their area (e.g. the Locarno, development of which has stopped following the collapse of Bach Homes), but are now doing so.

Railway Works
Having put up a few steel frames, Thomas Homes have stopped work on their development between STEAM and the NMRC, owing to the collapse in the housing market. The New Swindon Company is concerned about this as Thomas Homes are a relatively strong company, and they are in discussions with them.

Cultural Quarter
The area from Regents Circus down Princess Street is designated as a cultural quarter. Plans for this are now very long term, owing to the financial crisis. There is a clear wish by the New Swindon Company to improve the ambiance of 'curry corner'. They would like there to be a new theatre, though the appropriate size for that has yet to be determined. Having a town centre university would help these plans, as university would be a shared user of some of the facilities.

Top end of Regent Street
The New Swindon Company is fitting new shop fronts to the shops that they own at the top of Regents Street, to improve the ambiance, and also so that they are more attractive to potential occupants once the economic conditions improve.

Wharf Green
The market that currently takes place in Canal Place will move to Wharf Green, in part because of improvement works in Canal Place making it unusable. The New Swindon Company expressed frustration at people lacking patience with Wharf Green and expecting it to instantaneously become a hive of activity, when this will take time.  (Which suggests to me that the New Swindon Company are victims of their own hype.)

The Canal
They noted that the leader of the council and the Canal Trust are very enthusiastic about this, and that the inspector's report on the Central Area Action Plan had endorsed the canal proposals, with some caveats (Having looked at her report, the caveats are quite minor, relating to monitoring and targets.) They described it as a nice-to-have but seemed devoid of enthusiasm for it themselves.

Timescales
They pointed out that developments in other towns have taken just as long. For example, planning for Cabot Circus started in 1992. Also the planning process is very slow. If their plans require a street to be closed, they can only apply for street closure after they have got planning permission, and consideration of the street closure application takes about a year. They had asked the Government Office for the South West if they could apply for street closure before planning consent is obtained and were told 'no'.

General impression was that things would be very slow, with a little development starting next year, a little more in 2010 and all other plans dependent on when the economy recovers.

Website
They agreed with suggestions from the floor to include some of the explanations they had given this evening (e.g. about timescales and comparisons with other developments) on their website, and also to include a glossary to explain some of the planning jargon.

General Impressions
Like CoOT, I got the impression that the New Swindon Company are an organisation with responsibility but with little power. Their role is to 'master plan' and to promote the development of Swindon to potential developers, but they are very much restrained by what Swindon Borough Council and the development companies choose to do. Several people at the forum suggested that any future meetings needed to have representatives from the developers there too. That seems to be where the real power lies. Having said that, I feel that my 3/4 hour at the meeting was time well spent.

I too am of the view that I'll believe the development when it happens and not before. The demolition of the old college building has been predicted too many times for any more such predictions to believed in the current economic climate.


For info there was about 15 members of the public there and the added bonus that the lovely Kirsty from Swindonweb was there filming so look out on swindon web tommorrow

I'm hoping I was out-of-sight to the left of Swindonweb's camera position, but if not I suspect you'll be able to guess which one was me.
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Offline Tobes

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2008, 09:17:19 AM »
I'm disapointed - but hardly surprised to be honest. When it comes to the responsibility to deliver the fabled 'engagement', it seems that the council aludes to the planners, the planners alude to The New Swindon Company and the New Swindon Company points at the ever elusive developers... But nobody seems to have a clear message on the vision of the overall project - or and understanding or an iota of care what the community actually thinks of any of these grand plans. In fact, my experiences (listed here on the public record) seem to show that very few people in a position of influence care at all.

(The exceptions to date have been two councillors... my thanks to them)
« Last Edit: December 11, 2008, 11:12:19 AM by Tobes »
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline seguniang

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2008, 10:14:02 AM »
Regent Circus tower is to be smaller in the design, but things will be put in place to build on it at a later stage when the residential market is better.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2008, 10:23:09 AM »
Regent Circus tower is to be smaller in the design, but things will be put in place to build on it at a later stage when the residential market is better.

A bit like the practice in India of building 3 floors and leaving an odd looking flat roof.....

...then coming back to it a few years later and adding another floor?


Welcome to TS btw  :santa_smiley:

Offline Mart

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #15 on: December 11, 2008, 12:59:32 PM »
Can they not build the upper floors first and add the lower ones later?

I think it going to be cack, it was going to be cack anyway, now it's going to be cheap cack.

I don't want to be more permeable.
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline PAV

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2008, 02:34:35 PM »
Good write ups CoOT komadori - very interesting reads.

Offline James

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2008, 02:43:56 PM »
Thankyou Komadori & CoOT...
Quote
Issues around opening up the residential streets behind the college are being looked at, but this is currently viewed as a good thing to do in town planning. (that is, opening up existing streets is viewed as better then redeveloping the street plan).

Did they give any indication as to how the public (especially residents) could be involved with this process BEFORE people are committed to a particular line of development?

Having lived in the area at the bottom of Prospect Hill I really struggle to see how opening up the old road makes a positive improvement to the residential environment it influences. There are (and please correct me if I am wrong) only three businesses (all pubs) which would be effected: The Beehive, The Prince of Wales, and The Castle. All other businesses are already on either of the main roads - Eastcott or Victoria, or within 50yards of them (Cross Street Garage).

I could be persuaded, but I'd want to see some detailed expectation of change in footfall patterns and crime/anti-social behaviour, and impact assessment on local businesses and residents. Just saying 'someone else says it is a good thing' really ain't good enough.

I wish I could have gone to the meeting, though it seems on this issue to be "not me guv".

So
1.
Does any councilor who posts/reads this (and we know you do...) know how to go about raising this issue and with whom (exactly) should it be raised?

2.
I would like to see all parties in a room so they can't just "pass the buck".
So do we know when they will next be in the same room together for public consultation?


James

Offline Mart

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2008, 03:59:58 PM »
So do we know when they will next be in the same room together for public consultation?

When Swindon win the Champions League, when residents parking is finally resolved, when the national debt is cleared, when we have a White Christmas, when weekly refuse collections return, when gordnon finds a wittier riposte than a gibbered 'do nothing party', when alastair darling understands what he does for a living, when I fancy Hazel Blears, when Harriet Harman fancies me, when Iceland has an income, when tax is the minor cost in a gallon of fuel.

Not any time soon I'm guessing, but I think I would turn up for it, permeability! Pseudo bollocks with bugger all aforethought I would say.
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline seguniang

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Re: Meet the New Swindon Company!
« Reply #19 on: December 11, 2008, 04:04:50 PM »
The residents of Eastcott, now have the Eastcott Community Council. Carol indicated that she  is willing to attend its meetings to understand people's concerns and communicate any new information, she has already started to attend the Broad Green meetings.